Being a good manager means a whole lot more than having an MBA, decades of experience, and a willingness to work long hours. Indeed, many great managers have none of the above, while many bad managers do have all of the above. Being a good manager will require you to dig deeper. Of course, there’s no one right recipe for being a good manager but there are some general tips and rules you can follow.
These tips are meant for managers at every level. One thing you learn after being in management for long enough is that the traits that make a front-line manager great are often the same as or similar to the traits that make an executive so effective. After all, that executive likely started on a much lower management rung, proved him/herself, and then moved up.
Blend “Peer” and “Boss
Some managers lead through fear and retribution. In some cases, this might turn out to be an effective strategy. However, such a strategy runs the risk of turning the work culture toxic. It’s okay to be the boss and when necessary, to remind people that you’re the boss. However, a dose of humility, a splash of empathy, and a willingness to listen can go a long way.
Know That You Can Let Your Guard Down
Speaking of treating your subordinates as peers, it’s fine to sometimes treat them as friends as well. Take the team out to lunch, buy a round of drinks at the local pub, loosen the tie. No, you shouldn’t get drunk with your subordinates and a bit of space between your professional and social lives is usually well advised. However, it’s okay to let your guard down from time to time to develop real human connections with your workers.
Stay Calm Under Fire
It doesn’t matter how great of a leader you are, things are going to hit the fan at some point. That’s just how the business world is. When things start to go wrong, your subordinates are going to look to you. They will be watching your reaction, and they’ll base their reaction on it. Moreover, they’ll also be observing, and yes, judging how you handle the situation. Stay calm and lead on. This will inspire your team and help them stay collected.
Let Employees Know When They Are Hurting Themselves
Employees mess up. Employees will sometimes cross a line as well. Maybe they storm out of a meeting or make a personal remark. When this moment comes, it’s best not to sweep it under the rug. It’s also best to remember that we are all human and all make mistakes. When an employee does step out of line, help them get back in line, but do so with a sense of empathy.
Compliment Your Employees and What They Do Well
For some reason, some managers seem almost afraid to compliment others. It’s almost as if complimenting them is insulting yourself. That’s hogwash. Many employees will feel like they are flying in the dark, not knowing how good of a job they are doing. Turn on the lights. Let them know what they are doing right. Compliments can go a long way towards reinforcing good behavior and will help your employees develop confidence in themselves and their work. In the long run this will result in improved employee efficiency and obviously better overall results.
Help Your Employees Address Their Weaknesses
Of course, no employee is perfect. No employee is a superhero. We all have things we excel at and things we struggle with. That’s true for leaders and their subordinates. When it comes to employees, try to offer some encouraging compliments and constructive criticism in areas that they are falling short on. Maybe a project didn’t go as well as expected, but find the silver linings and help the employee understand how they can do better.
Lend a Helping Hand
Don’t just sit in your office demanding reports. If you see an employee falling behind, roll up your sleeves and dive in. Chances are, with your experience and insights you can help the employee catch up to speed. It’s important to be supportive and to make it clear that you are 100% looking to help and not to micromanage.
Share Your Own Mistakes and Failures
Sometimes, it helps to remind employees that you are not, in fact, perfect. We’ve all made mistakes along the way. It’s okay to occasionally share your mistakes, especially if there’s a lesson that can be taught. This will both help your employees learn from your mistakes, and lets them know that you’re human. This, in turn, reminds them that it’s okay to be human themselves.
Stand Behind The Employees You Believe In
Sometimes, CEOs and other bosses challenge their employees at every turn and every corner that they develop a reputation as being combative. This discourages employees from coming forward with ideas of their own, which will hurt your company. When employees do well at their job, believe in them. And when they come forward with ideas or feedback, stand behind them. Communicating productively, motivating employees, facilitating collaboration are key skills good managers must have!
Get It Done
As a manager and leader, you need to be decisive. You also need to be willing to go above and beyond. Is there a last minute business deal shaping up? If so, can you make the plane? Is there a tough situation at hand? Make a decision and resolve it to the best of your ability. You have to be driven, focused, and willing to go the extra mile. When employees see your drive, they’ll feed off it.
Genuinely Do What’s Right
Many companies have “do no evil” or “be good members of society” in their corporate literature. Some companies follow through on their words. Many don’t. This can create a toxic culture. Do the right thing and encourage your company to work with detailed to do lists for every employee in order to be sure they do the right thing. When your employees are faced with a “right or wrong” choice, they’ll be more likely to do what's right.
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